Over the weekend, the New Jersey Devils traded Boston’s second round pick and Nashville’s fourth round pick to the San Jose Sharks for Mirco Mueller and a 5th round pick. Many fans immediately questioned this trade due to receiving a relatively unknown defenseman for two picks, one being a mid-second rounder.
There is a reason Devils fans don’t know much about Mirco Mueller, who only played four NHL games last season. Although he is relatively unknown, there’s reason to be optimistic about this acquisition. Mueller comes with some pedigree as he was selected 18th overall in the 2013 NHL draft. He was billed as the next great Swiss d-man and drew some comparisons to Roman Josi. Mueller was then rushed into the NHL in 2014 by the Sharks where he struggled to play with any confidence or consistency. The next two seasons, Mueller struggled to stick in the NHL under head coach Pete DeBoer and was passed up on the depth chart by other veteran defensemen. Mueller was about to be left unprotected by the Sharks before the Devils swooped in and acquired him.
This story sounds eerily familiar to a former New Jersey defenseman’s tale, a young promising defenseman who was rushed into the NHL and then never given a fair shot by DeBoer. While Mueller’s story mirrors Adam Larsson’s journey in New Jersey, Mueller doesn’t possess the same skillset as Larsson. They’re both defensive defenseman but Mueller has done little in the NHL to prove himself capable of earning a regular NHL lineup spot.
What Mueller has is high-quality skating, good defensive instincts, and the ability to transition the puck up the ice. The knocks on him are he can turn the puck over frequently, doesn’t play physical, and struggles with consistency. Mueller has upside, something the Devils blue line lacked last season outside of Damon Severson and Steve Santini. Maybe this change of scenery and new coaching staff can allow for Mueller to gain some confidence and excel in a defined role. He also fills a positional need on the left side.
Admittedly, this was a hefty price to pay for a question mark with upside. Although only a small amount of second round picks become successful NHLers, it’s not ridiculous to believe the Devils could have selected someone with higher upside than Mueller at 49th overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. The pros of this trade are that the Devils get an NHL-ready defenseman who slots into their opening night roster and can potentially be a steal. It will be hard to judge this trade before we see what Mueller has to offer but as of right now, it looks to be a slight overpayment due to the Devils deficiency of left defensemen.